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“The site of the very first Salisbury cathedral”
Review of Old Sarum

Old Sarum
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Small-Group Day Trip to Salisbury, Stonehenge and Avebury from London
Ranked #6 of 75 things to do in Salisbury
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed October 14, 2012

Old Sarum is located north of the city. It boasts a chequered past, beginning circa 3,000 BC, when it was merely a chalk hilltop used for seasonal gatherings and regarded with reverence by the local Neolithic peoples. Evidence suggests that around 1,500 BC it had been abandoned, although the hill was surrounded by burial mounds of local chieftains.

During the Iron Age, circa 400BC, the local Celtic people, renowned for their inter-tribal rivalry, repopulated the site and created a powerful hill fort to protect the surrounding farmland. A new gatehouse was constructed, which, although it would always be the weakest point of the fortifications, enabled them to express their identity in such ways as impaling the heads of captured rival tribesmen to ward off future attacks.

Massive earthworks were built during this period, consisting of an outer ditch 100 yards in diameter and 20 feet deep and the remodelling of the inner defences, presenting a formidable obstacle to any would-be invader. During this time the fort was known as Dun Sorvia.

When the Romans arrived, Sorvodunum, as they called it, expanded south to the River Avon, and the development of their military post saw a town flourish alongside the fortress. There was also an important road junction here that the Romans realised made this site of great strategic wealth.

After the Romans departed, it became a Saxon royal estate. By 552 AD, Britain was no longer part of the Roman Empire, and the British were heavily defeated by the Saxons at Old Sarum, which they renamed Searobyrg. In 1003, a marauding Viking army sacked nearby Wilton and the locals sought refuge at Old Sarum. Wilton’s market and Royal Mint were also moved here for safety.

By the time of William the Conqueror, who decided to reconstruct much of the fortifications in stone, Old Sarum already had endured a turbulent history.

William recognised the site for what it was – the great scale of the outer defences made it an ideal arena in which to muster his troops, and in August 1086, he summoned all of England’s most powerful landowners to Old Sarum to pledge their allegiance to him. This was a crucial moment – the Domesday Book was being compiled, a full scale Viking invasion had been narrowly averted, and William’s eldest son was in armed rebellion against him. It was never more important for the Norman King of England to be seen in all his majesty.

But all things change; the cathedral that had been built on the site, just outside the main walls, was struck by lightning very shortly after it’s completion in the late 12th century. Although a new cathedral was quickly built to replace it, the position of the Old Sarum site meant that a constant water supply was difficult to maintain for the burgeoning population, and a decision was taken to build a new cathedral in the nearby town of Salisbury, close to the river. Within months, the site was deserted and left to the elements.

Thank GBfromDevizes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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1,014 - 1,018 of 1,240 reviews

Reviewed October 6, 2012

was driving from Stonehenge to go to Salisbury cathedral and saw a sign for this castle so decided to stop and after the hectic mess that was Stonehenge was really nice to have a relaxed walk round this site with its huge moat you can get a real feel for what a huge task attacking a place like this would be

Thank Ryan H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 6, 2012

Not to be missed. So much fascinating history that you can feel it. Great views I wish we had known to take a picnic.

Thank Jan H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 4, 2012

Really worth a visit, lots of history and the views were great too. Reasonable entrance fee and a good shop.

Thank Maria S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 26, 2012

Difficult to visualise given the amount of ruins left but in a truly spectacular location and still well worth a visit.

Thank Greg B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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